Short Story | ‘A Song for Sweetie’ by J.I. Wells, Illustration by Stephanie Matos
It was a delightful October afternoon. From the chimneys in the village came the pleasant smell of wood smoke that filled the crisp autumn air. Sunlight poured through the treetops bathing the entire park in a lemony glow. Sweetie the tan and white Bulldog was practicing his dance routine near the stone angel fountain when, without warning, a bird landed upon his broad head. Steadying herself, the bird began to flutter before Sweetie’s eyes. He saw that she was lovely, much of her pale brown with a yellow bib and a pinkish beak.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt you,” Miss Goldfinch said as the bird and the dog introduced themselves. “My wings are shorter than they should be. Occasionally I must settle wherever I am able.”
“No problem,” Sweetie responded graciously. “I’m glad you are all right.” The dog was about to launch back into his routine when he paused. “Please. Don’t let me stop you,” said the tiny bird.
“Oh, that’s okay.” Sweetie offered. “I’m afraid it wasn’t going well anyway.”
“I’m surprised to hear that.” Miss Goldfinch said.
“Yes. You see, I could not help but notice you as I flew overhead, just before I landed. And if I may say, it appears that dancing makes you happy—”
“More than anything!” Sweetie agreed. “It’s just…well, my legs are short and stocky. My feet are too big. I’m quite sure I must look ridiculous.”
“Not at all,” Miss Goldfinch murmured kindly. “You have a certain charm, actually.”
“That’s most generous of you to say so.” Sweetie said. “But you know what the real problem is?”
“What?” Miss Goldfinch asked.
“The real problem is—I am unable to keep my rhythm because there isn’t any music!”
Miss Goldfinch considered this. “Of course there is music! Just look around you—and listen!”
“To what?” Sweetie was curious now.
“Why—to the last of yellow and red leaves as they rustle then fall from that maple tree over there. To the refreshing water that trickles down from this fountain so you and I and other critters will not go thirsty.”
“That’s music—?” Sweetie asked, amazed.
The sun had hidden itself behind a low-lying cloud as Sweetie and Miss Goldfinch shared a drink from the angel fountain. Sweetie regarded the bird a moment before he asked her: “Are you happy…?
“Yes,” she answered, without any hesitation. “Does that surprise you?”
“Well,” Sweetie reasoned, “You say your short wings prevent you from flying where you might wish. So I naturally thought—”
“—perhaps that’s so…for now.” Miss Goldfinch mused. “But it cannot prevent me from at least trying to soar. And that, I suppose, is what does make me happy!”
Sweetie was thinking about this when Miss Goldfinch asked: “So aren’t you going to invite me to dance with you—?”
“I would—but who will play music for us? Don’t we need it to dance?”
And as suddenly as Miss Goldfinch had landed upon Sweetie’s head, it began to drizzle.
“Shhh,” Miss Goldfinch whispered, “hear how the raindrops pelt the iron chairs over there. Ping… Ping…!”
“You really can dance to that?”
“If you want.”
Sweetie closed his eyes…and concentrated. And this time, he truly did hear the rain…then some twigs snapping in the wind that had begun to kick up…then several branches crackling beneath the weight of a climbing squirrel…
In astonishment, he cried: “I, too, can hear music!”
When Miss Goldfinch perched upon Sweetie’s big head like a delicate flower, the dog opened his eyes. In wonder, he watched the leaves, like gold coins from heaven, drift to the soft earth. Dancing joyfully around the fountain, Sweetie pretended that the angel was their audience. For he could at last hear the shimmery raindrops splashing the water in the fountain! He could now hear the swoosh of the wind in the sky that canopied above them.
As they continued to dance together in the gentle rain, Miss Goldfinch sang her own glorious accompaniment.
And the little bird smiled in her quiet knowledge that her new friend Sweetie finally understood he had learned the best tune of all—the song inside one’s own heart, and the exquisite music that is around us always—if only—we just listen.
Illustration by: Stephanie Matos